Extension Of Conant Steet Traffic Island Is Approved By Maumee City Council

This rendering depicts the existing 100-foot traffic island on Conant Street near the crosswalk area at East and West Harrison streets (pictured to the left), as well as the new 364-foot traffic island (pictured to the right) that will be constructed further south along Conant Street toward the arch that leads to the approach of the Ft. Meigs Memorial Bridge. ILLUSTRATION COURTESY OF THE CITY OF MAUMEE

BY MIKE McCARTHY | MIRROR EDITOR — Maumee City Council has approved a request by the city administrator to extend the traffic island on Conant Street as a safety measure intended to slow the traffic speeds of vehicles heading southward toward the Ft. Meigs Memorial Bridge in uptown Maumee.

The request to extend the island by over 100 yards toward the south side of the existing island was made by Maumee city administrator Dr. Patrick Burtch and was unanimously approved by Maumee City Council at its February 5 meeting.

In a departmental report sent to the mayor and all city council members, Burtch explained that the extension of the island is requested as a tool to deter the increasingly dangerous rates of speed of vehicles traveling southbound on Conant Street past the Harrison Street crosswalk toward the bridge.

In the report, Burtch requested that city council “authorize the extension of the current landscape island approximately 364 lineal feet to the south to accommodate the length by which motorists feel comfortable increasing their speed traveling to Perrysburg.”

In his summary of the history, background and discussion of the issue, Burtch wrote the following:

“As you are aware, the City of Maumee’s uptown project is specifically designed to reduce traffic speeds and to afford a more appropriate balance between vehicles and pedestrian mobility and safety.

“Unfortunately, consideration of this project failed to assume the significant speeds by which motorists would accelerate toward the Maumee/Perrysburg bridge once leaving the single southbound lane just past Harrison and Conant.

“As a result, our concern is not only that these vehicles are increasing their speed so rapidly approaching the curve of the bridge, but that pedestrians are far more at risk because of that acceleration.”

Burtch’s report went on to state the city’s traffic engineer was consulted regarding the extension of the island “and believes that no additional backup of traffic will result since the number of lanes traveling north will remain the same coming from Perrysburg. It will simply reduce the speed at which motorists will be able to travel for a longer period of time, which should be enough to reduce potential hazards to motorists traveling over the bridge to the south.”

Burtch reported that the construction cost estimate for the extension (including curbs, landscaping trees, electrical and irrigation work and the installation of lighted bollards) would amount to $184,979, based upon existing unit prices in the current Helms Construction Company contract with the city that runs through this summer.

The costs would result in an increase in the city’s 2024 capital improvements budget, which is expected to be forwarded to city council next month.

In recent weeks, there have been at least two incidents where vehicles traveling recklessly have hit one or more of the small trees on the island, with the latest incident taking place last Sunday night.

The first incident occurred a few weeks ago and reportedly involved a drunk driver heading north from the Ft. Meigs Memorial Bridge toward uptown Maumee. The driver clipped a small tree on the island. 

The second incident also involved a suspected drunk driver and took place on the night of Super Bowl Sunday, resulting in damage to multiple trees on the island as well as some concrete damage in the crosswalk area.

The driver in the second incident was traveling recklessly in the southbound lane heading toward the Ft. Meigs Memorial Bridge and was eventually pulled over by Perrysburg police, who subsequently made an OVI arrest, according to Maumee Police Chief Josh Sprow.

During the Committee of the Whole portion of the February 5 city council meeting, council member Philip Leinbach asked Chief Sprow to offer his observations on the traffic situation between Broadway Street and the Ft. Meigs Memorial Bridge.

“What have been the safety concerns that are prompting us to take this action?” Leinbach asked the chief.

Sprow replied that, for as long as he can remember, the traffic near Broadway Street has always been aggressive, particularly in the morning commute, calling it a “free-for-all” type of situation.

The chief reported that during the construction work in the area last summer, drivers were so aggressive that he had to station patrol cars in the area to slow the traffic and protect the construction workers.

“Over the last four days, we have had the speed trailer (on Conant Street near the bridge) to record the speeds,” Sprow stated. “Fifteen percent of the cars going through there were traveling above 43 miles per hour where the speed limit is 35.” 

Sprow said that the speed trailer started collecting data at 7:40 p.m. on Friday, February 2 and continued gathering information until 11:42 a.m. on Monday, February 5.

He explained that the speed trailer’s radar capabilities are limited to picking up the fastest and strongest signal of one speeding vehicle at a time. “If two cars are coming down, side by side, the radar is only going to grab the strongest signal, which is going to be the largest vehicle mass combined with the highest rate of speed,” he said. 

During the nearly four days of data collection by the trailer, the speeds of 11,192 vehicles were recorded, with 7,268 drivers traveling above the posted speed limit of 35 mph. A total of 3,924 vehicles were recorded traveling at or below the speed limit.

The highest recorded speed during the four-day period was 69 mph in a 35-mph zone. The chief stated that it is not uncommon for Maumee police officers to write speeding tickets for motorists traveling in excess of 60 mph on the bridge.

Sprow also reported that last year there was a fatal crash on the bridge.

“Speed is always a factor,” Sprow said, saying that two vehicles that collide while each is traveling over 35 mph significantly increases the likelihood of a traffic fatality.

Leinbach asked if it was correct to conclude that the proposed physical changes brought about by the extension of the island would be enough of a deterrent to slow people down.

“The island has slowed cars down from what I have witnessed,” Sprow said. He added that he believes extending the island would help further reduce speeds.

Council member Margo Puffenberger said, “I have seen a significant decrease in speed since the island has been put in. I walk that path a lot, go down Broadway, walk along Conant to the towpath and I have been using the pedestrian crossing a lot.”

Puffenberger noted that motorists tend to drive considerably slower in the vicinity of the island. “It used to be that (drivers) would come around the corner once they got to Broadway and then take off to go to the bridge,” she said. 

“Now, they delay (increasing their speed) to the end of the island, so with the extension of the island it would be nice to keep the speed down all the way to the towpath, especially since (presently) there are no street trees or bollards in between. You feel really exposed out there, especially to the high speeds,” Puffenberger said.

At the request of the mayor, Burtch explained some of the details and the function of the island.

“The current island is about 100 feet and 6 feet wide, but remember that when you get past that island, the lanes get to 14.5 feet wide, which is 2.5 feet per lane wider than (the lanes on) I-475, so it’s not a wonder that cars travel so fast,” Burtch explained.

“This (new) island will start narrow. It will direct traffic and then it gets to about 12 feet wide and there will be redbud trees that are lit with white lights, just like the island will be when our power is on,” Burtch said.

“It will go 364 feet. It will stop before the turnoff where our trucks turn on to the towpath,” Burtch continued.  He explained that the added length of the expanded island will control traffic at a slower rate of speed until the single lane opens to two lanes closer to the arch by the bridge.

He added that southbound motorists would then detect the upcoming curve in the bridge and would be less inclined to hit the accelerator as quickly in that situation as the traffic lanes expand from one to two.

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